It is stated in a Defense Watch document entitled "Post-Deployment Stressful for Many Veterans" that deployments are not only stressful for members of the armed forces but as well deployments are "also very stressful on the families who've had to create a daily routine without their deployed soldier." (Defense Watch, 2010) The spouse of the individual deployed naturally must take on many more responsibilities in the home including those related to "…finances, household repairs, disciplining of children, and other day-to-day activities." The result is that many spouses are overwhelmed by responsibility and this produces a great deal of "anxiety, stress, and occasionally, substance abuse." (Defense Watch, 2010) In contrast, the impact is quite the opposite with the spouse left behind thriving on the extra responsibility and at the time the deployed spouse returns home, the spouse who was left with all the responsibilities at home has a difficult time relinquishing those to the returned soldier. (Defense Watch, 2010, paraphrased)
The Defense Watch document additionally relates that upon the soldier returning home "reunions can often be awkward and tense s everyone adjusts to the changed family dynamics." (Defense Watch, 2010) When the family member who has been deployed has been gone for a period such as twelve months and then is suddenly home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the stress potential is very high. Defense Watch reports that family members of deployed veterans are encouraged upon the veteran's return to attend classes that are provided by the Family Support Group for each military unit which is focused on preparing family members for the adjustments that will be required upon the soldier's return from deployment. The adjustment is differentiated for those who serve as National Guard and Reserve soldiers and as well single soldiers also have their own adjustment challenges. (Defense Watch, 2010)
Also noted in the Defense Watch document is the strain that the 24-hour news cycle places on soldiers and their family members and this includes during and following deployment. This is because following deployment the impact of the returned soldier hearing news and seeing images of war have a hard time putting their active duty behind them. Director of one unit Family Support Group, stated as follows:
"Family members seeing events unfold are often worried that their loved one could be involved in the latest set of attacks. With instant e-mail and cell phones, soldiers and their families can be in constant communication, which can lead to additional stress and expectations…most of the symptoms of combat stress that soldiers experience are emotional responses, but nearly everyone interviewed shared the same physical response to loud noises." (Defense Watch, 2010 )
One service member recalls: "We missed getting blown up a couple of times, so when I hear a loud noise I jump," said Sharpe, explaining that his compound in the Green Zone was bombed regularly. "We had one [mortar round] that landed right outside our area, the building shook and all the windows broke…" (Defense Watch, 2010) The individual was speaking of his term in active duty in Baghdad and he additionally states that he believed that he was "doing okay…until the Fourth of July. "I couldn't listen to the fireworks," (Defense Watch, 2010) The service member reports that he was forced to leave the festivities.
Five Stages of Deployment
The work entitled "The Emotional Cycle of Deployment: A Military Perspective "reports that military families "…have experienced the emotional trauma of deployment on an unprecedented scale since the end of the Gulf War." (Military Advantage, 2010 ) Different strategies for coping are required as there are reported to be "five stages of deployment." (Military Advantage, 2010) It is stated to be necessary to train health care providers and military leaders to assist family members through each of these five stages of deployment. (Military Advantage, 2010, paraphrased) The study reported is one that is stated to be reliant on the narratives of families and service members. The five stages of deployment are stated to include those as follows:
The Five Stages of Deployment
1. Pre-deployment -- varies, from several weeks to more than a year.
2. Deployment - 1st month - the period from the Soldier's departure from home through the first month of the deployment.
3. Sustainment - months 2 through 5
4. Re-deployment - last month
5. Post-deployment - 3-6 months after deployment (Military Advantage, 2010)
Each stage is characterized by a "time frame and specific emotional challenges" that have a requirement of being addressed and then "mastered by each of the Family members." (Military Advantage, 2010) When these challenges are not addressed the result is "significant strife -- both for Family members and the deployed Soldier."( Military Advantage, 2010) Making the provision of information concerning what the individuals should anticipate and especially in cases where the families have no experience with lengthy separations is a very effective method of bringing about a sense of normalcy and enabling the family members to positively cope with the experience of deployment. (Military Advantage, 2010, paraphrased) In addition, the promotion of the comprehension of the various challenges associated with each stage of deployment is an effective method of avoiding crises and well as bringing about a minimization in the need for "command intervention or mental health counseling and can even reduce suicidal threats." (Military Advantage, 2010 ) Each of the stages are described as follows:
Stage One: Predeployment: The onset of this stage begins with the warning order for deployment. This stage ends when the Soldier actually departs from home station. The pre-deployment timeframe is extremely variable from several weeks to more than a year. (Military Advantage, 2010) It is reported that emotional distance is one of the primary complaints of family members during pre-deployment and as well many questions remain in regards to the stages of deployment following that of pre-deployment. (Military Advantage, 2010)
Anticipation of loss vs. denial
Train-up/long hours away
Getting affairs in order
Time frame: variable (Military Advantage, 2010)
Stage 2: Deployment
This stage is the period from the Soldier's departure from home through the first month of the deployment. (Military Advantage, 2010)
Numb, sad, alone
Time frame: first month (Military Advantage, 2010)
Stage 3: Sustainment: The sustainment stage lasts from the first month through the fifth (penultimate) month of deployment. (Military Advantage, 2010)
New routines established
New sources of support
Feel more in control
Confidence ("I can do this")
Time frame: months two thru five (Military Advantage, 2010)
Stage 4: Re-deployment: The re-deployment stage is essentially defined as the month before the Soldier is scheduled to return home. (Military Advantage, 2010)
Anticipation of homecoming
Burst of energy/"nesting"
Difficulty making decisions
Time frame: months five thru six (Military Advantage, 2010)
Stage 5. Post-deployment
Loss of independence
Need for "own" space
Reintegrating into Family
Time frame: three to six months after deployment (Military Advantage, 2010)
The Defense Watch report states that many challenges exists for military families in overcoming the five stages of deployment. Anticipation of the challenges is critical to minimizing the potential emotional trauma of extended deployment. The following chart lists the pitfalls and helpful hints for deployment.
Pitfalls and Helpful Hints for Deployment
Pitfalls Helpful Hints
Over-interpreting arguments Establish a base of support
Hot topics/long distances Make plans to break up time
Rumors/loss of trust E-mail, phone calls, letters
Investment in date of return Avoid overspending/alcohol
Not accepting changes in marriage Single parents need time without kids.
The work of Karney, et al. (2008) entitled "Invisible Wounds" states that the effects "of post-combat mental disorders inevitably extend beyond the afflicted service member. As service members go through life, their impairments cannot fail to impact those they interact with, and those closest to the service member are likely to be the most severely affected." ) It is stated that there is a wide range of empirical literature documenting the range of negative consequences that post-combat mental disorders have had on the families of service members returning from prior conflicts. In general, research on the consequences of mental disorders for families has identified direct and indirect routes through which these consequences come about." (Karney, et al., 2008)
The family members and other loved ones are impacted by the problems hat returning service members have with "emotion regulation, predicting greater risk of physical violence in the home" all of which are direct impacts. Included in the direct impacts is "the inability to sustain employment." (Karney, et al., 2008) Each of these impacts has been directly linked to "difficulties maintaining intimate relationships" and as well each of these disorders has been accredited for "increased risk of distressed relationships, intimate partner violence, and divorce among those afflicted." (Karney, et al., 2008) Additionally, it is reported that "…interpersonal deficits that interfere with emotional intimacy in the romantic relationships of service members with these disorders appear likely to interfere with their interactions with their children…